Kenny Miller was unveiled as the new Livingston player/manager yesterday and immediately revealed that people had been lining up to dissuade him from trying to combine jobs.
Stating he had been offered several opportunities to simply extend his playing career, the 38-year-old former Rangers striker accepted that would have been the safer option but, acknowledging the dual role will be challenging, he said the lure of marrying game time with a managerial post in the Scottish top tier had proved too enticing to turn down.
“It’s something I was going back and forwards on. When you [play] for 22 years, you wake up in the morning, come to training, you’re told what to do, you do the session, you get changed, you go home. You’re a soldier.
“Now you have to make that step with the staff, deciding what you’re going to be doing, when you’re going to do it, how you’re going to do it. That’s the scary aspect of making the step. Just being a player would have been the safer call but I’ve not jumped into it lightly, I’ve spoken to a lot of people, most of them telling me I can’t do it, but also speaking to people who are already here.
“There are a few lads in the dressing room I know and every one of them says the same thing about the players who are here, which was a big selling point.”
Penning a two-year deal with the West Lothian club, who gained promotion to the Premiership by beating Partick Thistle in last season’s play-off final, he said the target is to keep the club in the top flight and then consolidate their position and he aims to play his part on and off the pitch.
“The chance to keep playing was huge but the opportunity to make this move into management which is what I was always going to do at some point… it’s probably come a bit sooner than I expected but what a fantastic opportunity to come to a club that’s on the up, that’s had some fantastic success over the last couple of seasons. I’m delighted it’s over the line.”
Joking that K Miller would be the first name on his teamsheet each week, the former Scotland international believes he can still have a strong input on the park and is keen to get the new campaign underway after last season ended under a cloud. Along with Lee Wallace, he was suspended following an alleged run in with Rangers’ interim boss Graeme Murty and, while that matter is far from settled, with Miller insisting he will have his say when the ongoing appeal is concluded, he says that would not stop him approaching his former club for loan deals, if he believed a player in the Ibrox under-20s could fill a void.
“I can only ask the question. You have to exercise every possible avenue when you are looking to strengthen a team. When you are on a limited budget sometimes you will be looking for a little help from people. If you can give a player first-team opportunities that they won’t get at another club then it is always a route that a club looks at. I will be no different. We haven’t touched on specific targets at the moment. But that is something I will be working very hard on in the next couple of weeks. I would like to get people in as soon as possible to get them bedded in to this dressing room.
“In the last two-and-a-half years I have been working away with the under-20s at Rangers, you are also playing against other teams as well so you get a fair take on what is going on in Scottish football and the ones who are breaking through at certain clubs. It is definitely a market we will be looking at.”
The former Wolves, Derby County and Cardiff City attacker will also look to exploit his contacts south of the border as he tries to build a team capable of competing in the top flight.
“There have been some real success stories in the last couple of years, like James Maddison. Just 18 months ago he was playing at Aberdeen and now he has moved to Leicester for £25 million. That is an avenue that clubs down south are looking at to give young players experience. I thought Brandon Barker was excellent at Hibs last season as well. By the looks of things, he might move on to other things this summer on the back of a successful loan spell. That is the benefit of getting first-team football.”
Willing to pick up the phone to the long list of past managers and team-mates, the managerial novice accepted it would be a steep learning curve.
“There are going to be bumps along the road, there’s absolutely no doubt about it. But I will learn in the job and in a month or two I’ll be more familiar with what is required and what the job entails.
“Everyone chooses a path. To come to a club in the Premiership for my first manager’s job was huge and still being able to play and help the lads on that field was a big part of the decision.
“We will work out how it’s going to work over the coming weeks and getting someone else into help will be discussed.”